School Mask Mandates: What you need to know in DC, Maryland and Virginia

With the Delta variant becoming a more serious threat, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revised its guidance on wearing masks, prompting many school districts in D.C., Maryland and Virginia to revise mask policies. 

The agency is now recommending that some fully vaccinated people wear masks indoors if they live in areas with significant or high spread. 

As the school year approaches for many students, here’s what you need to know about local district guidelines.


D.C. Public Schools will continue to mandate face masks for all students and staff when campuses reopen for in-person learning in August, Chancellor Lewis D. Ferebee said Thursday.

Students and staff will complete a daily "Ask, Ask, Look" screening, but temperatures will not be taken upon arrival at school, according to DCPS.


Charles County Public Schools will require masks on school buses but not in school buildings. 

The Frederick County Public School System said it will be following the US Centers For Disease Control and Prevention guidance when the new academic year begins on August 18. Initially, Brandon Oland, the Communications Manager for FCPS, said there will be no mask requirements in school buildings. However, on Wednesday, the district announced that it had changed course and would require masks for students and staff this year. 

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Montgomery County Public Schools will require masks for students and staff inside school buildings regardless of vaccination status, officials said Tuesday.

Prince George’s County will require masks for students, teachers and staff inside school buildings, officials said Monday. Schools CEO Monica Goldson said the vaccination rate among eligible students is still too low, at 50 percent.


Fairfax County Public Schools will require masks for everyone inside schools whenever students are present, regardless of vaccination status. 

"Masks will be worn at all times by both staff and students indoors and on school buses, but are not required when eating or when outside during recess, PE, or other activities," FCPS announced. "Universal masking is a critical factor in ensuring all students can return to our buildings, especially when social distancing is not possible and not all our students are eligible yet for vaccinations." 

READ MORE: New COVID-19 safety guidelines, mask mandates for students in VA: Here's what it means for your child

Those who are fully vaccinated can choose to go maskless indoors when no students are present, or when they are in FCPS offices that are not inside schools. Masks will not be required outdoors.

Spotsylvania County strongly urges students in all grades to wear masks this fall. Parents, however, can submit opt-out forms if they prefer for their child to not wear a mask. 

No decisions have been announced yet in Alexandria, or Arlington, Loudoun or Prince William counties.


Howard County Public Schools will require masks in school buildings for all students, staff and visitors, regardless of vaccination status for the 2021-2022 school year. Masks will also will be required on school buses.

Officials say the decision comes after new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Howard County Health Department.

Masks will not be required for any students or staff while eating or drinking indoors and will not be required outdoors – however -- they are recommended for unvaccinated individuals.

"This is not a decision I made lightly. Getting our students back to school in person is a top priority," said Superintendent Dr. Michael Martirano. "We recognize in this case that 'an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.' I know not everyone is comfortable in a mask and appreciate our community’s cooperation as we continue to fight this pandemic."

"The health and safety of our staff and students is of utmost concern," he continued. "There is a rise in COVID-19 cases and we have a significant portion of students who are not yet eligible for the vaccine, which necessitates layering mitigation strategies. The use of face masks has proven to be an effective measure at preventing the spread of COVID-19 and universal indoor masking will aid in allowing us to keep schools open."

School officials will continue to evaluate protocols throughout the year. School will also provide face masks, disinfectant and hand sanitizer stations in the school buildings.


Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) will require students and staff to wear masks for indoor activities at the beginning of the 2021-22 school year. School starts on Thursday, August 26.

"We know students and families have been waiting for news on mask-wearing and other mitigation measures in LCPS schools this fall," said Schools Superintendent Dr. Scott A. Ziegler, in a statement. "We have been closely monitoring information from the CDC, the Virginia Department of Health, and our own county’s transmission rates to make the most informed decision possible. With the mandate of 456 (formerly SB1303) to maximize in-person learning and to follow CDC guidance it was important to have the most updated information possible to inform our return to school this fall."

"We realize that our desire for in-person learning is currently being challenged by rising community risk in Loudoun County and the potential impact of the Delta variant on students and our community and we will continue to monitor developing conditions and data," Ziegler stated. "Mask wearing will minimize the need for quarantining, helping us keep students in the classroom."

What this means for LCPS students and staff is:

All students and staff will be required to wear face coverings at the start of the 2021-22 school year, regardless of their vaccination status.

Masks will be provided to LCPS students and staff who do not have them.

If a student with COVID-19 is within 3 to 6 feet of other students, the other students will not be considered "close contacts" if all the students are wearing masks. This will help reduce the need for quarantine and keep students in school.

Students will be required to wear masks on school buses. This follows LCPS’ practice for students participating in summer school and the CDC’s requirements for public transportation.

Students will not be required to wear masks during recess, PE or other outdoor recreational/extra-curricular activities

For indoor team practices and games, participants will wear masks while on the sidelines, but may remove them during play.

Schools will be open at 100 percent capacity for five-day-a-week learning for all students on August 26.


Mask guidance for the start of the 2021-22 school year

Letter from Dr. LaTanya D. McDade:

PWCS Students, Families, Employees, and Community,

It’s been nearly one month since I became Superintendent of Prince William County Public Schools (PWCS). I have had numerous conversations with parents, students, educators, faculty and staff, and members from the greater Prince William County community. Each has left me inspired and encouraged; we will indeed benefit from the richness of diversity as we continue working to ensure each of our nearly 90,000 students receive a World-Class Education.

On August 23, we will begin a new school year, and safety will remain top of mind for everyone, for caregivers and families, for educators and staff, and for all of us across Prince William County. Our students are best served in person. We know this paves the way for the greatest outcomes for everyone and is important for students’ academic progress, social-emotional growth, and well-being. There will be a large number of students returning, and we are taking precautions to ensure every student’s safety and to minimize disruptions to learning.

My commitment is to the safety of all students, teachers, employees, and families. And we are committed to limiting disruptions to student learning caused by quarantines or illnesses, as well as ensuring we have the staffing necessary to avoid shuttering classrooms or schools.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is recommending universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to schools, regardless of vaccination status. The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) is supporting universal masking for students. Additionally, Virginia law (SB1303) requires in-person instruction be available to all students, and to the maximum extent practicable, schools follow mitigation strategies that have been provided by the CDC.

Universal indoor masking will be required in all PWCS schools at the start of the 2021-22 school year for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to schools, regardless of vaccination status with some exceptions. Additional exceptions may include medical conditions or students whose disability may prevent masking. Through masking, our schools will be:

-Maintaining a layer of mitigation for staff and students when physical distancing is not possible.

-Significantly reducing potential disruption to the educational environment caused by student quarantines.

-Providing time for vaccines to become available at all ages and for more students to receive vaccinations.

-Reducing potential impacts to staffing due to employee illness or quarantine.


Students and staff will be allowed to be unmasked during outdoor activities, including athletics and marching band, provided they exercise the maximum possible physical distancing.

When appropriate physical distancing cannot be maintained, all student-athletes, coaches, officials, game management staff, and spectators are strongly encouraged to wear face coverings. There may be exceptions to outdoor protocols at schools on Fort George G. Meade, where federal directives would take precedence.

Indoors, all students and staff – regardless of age or vaccination status – will be masked except in limited circumstances.

Those include:

Indoor athletics, where student-athletes and officials engaged in strenuous practice activity or participating in competition may be unmasked during that time. At all other times, student-athletes must be masked. Spectators and coaches will be masked at all times indoors.

Eating, which will be done in school cafeterias (and additional approved areas in high schools) utilizing the maximum distancing possible.

Choral and theater classes, where singing will be done in sections distanced to the maximum extent possible, with participants masked at any time they are not singing. In theater classes, speakers will be masked when rehearsing or performing their lines.

Band and strings classes, where participants playing a wind instrument will be distanced to the maximum extent possible, wear a split mask when available, and be masked at any time they are not playing. Those students playing percussion and other non-wind instruments will be masked when rehearsing or performing.

In line with actions taken by the county, effective Monday, August 9, 2021, employees, contractors, and visitors in our Central and Satellite offices and our schools will be required to be masked at any time during which they are in the proximity of someone else regardless of age or vaccination status.

This list will be updated with the latest information as it becomes available. 


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